He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was a toy line like no other. Science Fiction mixed with Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a cast of ridiculous characters that at first glance would appear to have no business being in the same series as one another. And yet, it worked marvellously. The fact that it’s popularity dwindled sooner than that of the other 80s big guns, G.I. Joe and Transformers may have been that it was lacking a critical piece of the trifecta of ultimate coolness, a comic book. Granted there were mini comics packaged with the figures and DC published a mini-series but it didn’t have a strong monthly book to develop new characters and present a more serious side to the story. The cartoons were great but they were campy and silly as were the Joe and Transformers toons. After the cartoons were all off the air the comics held my interest with G.I. Joe and Transformers for years longer than He-Man. This is just a theory and it may have had nothing to do with it but I think a great comic would’ve kept me interested for a few more years.
Despite its shorter lifespan MOTU holds strong as the 3rd best boys toy line of the 80s. The toys were fun to play with and I think the most innovative of all 80s toy properties. Transformers and Joes innovated as well with things like articulation and well…transforming. And lines like Visionaries and Air Raiders had their line wide gimmicks but only the Masters of the Universe was breaking new ground with almost every single figure. The sheer number and variety of action features that the line introduced is staggering. Initially the figures all just swung at the waist, a kind of sling shot effect that allowed a figure to bat over other figures with a powerful roundhouse. But then came Stinkor that stunk, Ramman who rammed, Mekaneck who acted as a human periscope, the oozing slime pit trap, the mist spraying Kobra Kahn, the long wire arms of Squeeezze, the protruding eyes of Mantenna. I could literally go on and on. It seemed each new figure was bringing something new to the table. One of the cooler innovations brought about by the MOTU line was battle damage feature offered on the second releases He-Man and Skeletor. Each character had a breast plate with an emblem on the chest. When the emblem was struck a simple mechanism inside the torso would spin replacing the nice new emblem with one with a giant sword gash in it. When struck again another quick flip would reveal 2 large gashes. This wasn’t an overly complicated process but it was cool as all hell to a kid. Flicking that thing with your finger and instantly seeing the damage you inflicted on that nancy boy He-Man never got old.
While I do not have the original battle damage Skeletor, what I do have is the superiorly sculpted but inferiorly fun recreation of the figure from the MOTU Classics line. There’s no denying that this figure looks great. I always find myself with next to nothing to complain about when it comes to these MOTU Classics figures. They are fantastically sculpted and very true to the original design. This Skeletor looks like a total badass on my toy shelf. Especially once I’ve swapped the head he comes with, with the head that was included with my Demo-Man figure (sold separately). The original head is awesome and very reminiscent of the 80s toy; very nostalgic. The problem with that head is that it was never very scary. This alternate head which is based on how the character first appeared in the in-package mini comics is way scarier. It’s like Skeletor on crack. So here’s the issue I have with this figure, it looks great on display but much of the fun factor has been removed. He still comes with 3 alternate emblems showing various degrees of battle damage but they need to be taken off and replaced. The two alternate breast plates were packaged as separate accessories with the figure. So while you can re-create the battle damage effect of your youth the instant gratification of a quick flick is gone. I really wish they had stuck with the original spinning chest feature. That aside, this figure rocks. 9 out of 10.